So. I saw Shovels & Rope and Dawes play at the Buckhead Theatre on Friday night. I will elaborate on this point in a future post, but I want to start off by giving a cyber standing ovation to both bands. Shovels & Ropes continues to blow me away every time I see them (how are two people possibly that talented???) and Dawes exploded on stage with passion and amazing sound throughout their entire set. When a live performance makes you want to immediately buy the band’s entire catalog, you know they put on a good show. Cheers to both groups for a great evening.
As for a sizeable minority (if not an actual majority) of the attendees at the show:
WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK?
Did you realize that you were there to enjoy the performances of two fantastic bands, and not to preen, peacock, and pose around the fountain at East Andrews (or whatever blackhole of douchery is currently in vogue in the neighborhood… I know EA was “hip” like five years ago). Were you even marginally aware that there was an actual concert going on right in the very place you were throwing back jager?!
“I got dibs on that 18 year old bitch from Emory, brah. Totally gonna tap that tonight.”
Some people appreciate music by sitting quietly and politely clapping throughout the show. Others prefer to dance maniacally, sing along, hoot and holler, and cause a ruckus. Most folks fall somewhere in between. All of these are awesome and acceptable (with a bit of variation depending on the musical genre and venue), primarily because they all involve paying attention to a show that, at some point, you decided merited the effort of rolling off your couch, putting on polite-society pants, perhaps missing the TV broadcast of your sporting event or reality show of choice, and driving or cabbing over to see. This entire concept seemed to escape the notice of a staggering number of people on Friday.
This was an option! You even could’ve worn every polo in your closet!
I’m actually disinclined to attribute this to an inherent quality of either band’s fanbase on a general level. I’ve seen Shovels & Rope multiple times now, and their audiences have been loyal and enthusiastic. This was my first experience seeing Dawes live, but between the myriad of bands playing comparable music in comparable scenes whose fans manage to behave respectfully, and the substantial contingent of folks at Buckhead Theatre who seemed to know the band’s catalog and remained engaged in the concert experience, I’m not prepared to just blame them for attracting a crummy audience.
No, the blame for this one goes squarely on the venue’s location in Buckhead.
I swear, is there nothing this part of town can do that will not inflame my ire? Can someone please explain to me why you would pay money to attend a concert, perhaps weasel your way pretty close to the front in a crowded house, and then ignore the band or act like a dickbag the entire time? Consider:
1. At numerous venues in town, the band members can see you – yes, you! – in the audience from the stage. Obviously how many rows of people back any given musician can see depends on the configuration of the stage, the house and stage lighting, whether they’re deriving some of their energy from audience interaction and thus actually looking out, etc., but the outward gaze is not universally in one direction. When your plagued-by-stage-fright best friend had to give an oral presentation in middle school, did you attentively listen with an occasional encouraging smile (without staring her down) or did you disregard her nervousness and unabashedly pass notes with your seat neighbors, read a magazine, sharpie curse words into your desk, and close your eyes for a mini-nap? Or to try another analogy, when your buddies showed up to your soccer match waving signs and screaming your name, didn’t you find yourself naturally running a little bit faster, pressing on the defense a little bit harder?
Look alive, Buckhead dipshits! Gene Simmons is here!
I’m not saying anyone owes musicians sycophantic adoration simply by virtue of their being on stage, but why not at least try paying attention and throwing back some of the energy they are giving out before you return to repeatedly tweeting how much fun you’re totes having with your adorbs new beau and refreshing your ex’s page to see if he’s online to notice.
2. Cell phones. I absolutely fucking abhor cell phones. Given that I rarely have mine on and often don’t take it out with me at all, I’m aware that I’m at the “crotchety old lady” end of the spectrum on this one, but these devil devices are a social crutch and a social nuisance. Try putting the damn thing down and focus on the moment you’re in and the actual people around you. Specifically, why the buhjeezus would you spend the entire show texting? That damn blue glow is noticeable and distracting, and I’m not sure how you can honestly declare to Tiffany that “dis show is totes awsum! Lol im kinda bored tho not enuf cute guyz” if your head is buried in the thing for 3 hours straight. Pro tip: your view of the stage will be less obstructed if your eyes are actually directed toward it.
Best night ever! I sent Brent the funniest sext about how drunk I was, and he replied “k”. Yay! Also, I think some bands were playing or something.
3. Oh noes! The band is playing new material or a song that you don’t happen to know or like! I guess that means it’s the perfect time to start loudly carrying on a conversation about Mandy’s divorce or Chad’s skanky hookup, right? Wait, no. You’re an asshole. The band played one song where seriously more people were screaming out conversations to each other than were listening – and I was right up front at the time! (This dull roar of unrelated full conversations was a constant issue once I moved toward the back of the auditorium. Not outside the theater doors in the lounge area, just in the back third of the place.) Even more absurdly, it was actually a great song! Too much instrumentals, I guess, to hold the audience’s attention, but perhaps some of the people who were running their mouths would’ve enjoyed it had they thought to shut up for a few moments.
This is going to blow your mind, but some phenomenal bands don’t have vocals at all. And people actually focus on them for their whole set! I’ll give you a sec to go clean up the poopy you just made in your pants. (Photo credit via.)
4. The taking pictures/videos issue. Okay. I think there’s a certain amount of leeway on this one. I can understand wanting to take a couple of photos to memorialize the experience, especially if you’re close enough that the result won’t just be a blur. This one is really more of a puzzle than an annoyance. Are you really so caught up in proving to your facebook friends how good of a time you’re having that you’ll spend the duration of the show with your arm outstretched, looking at the show through a glass iphone lens, solely so you can post a bunch of shitty videos that – spoiler alert – no one will watch or care about?
Hey, I’m dying to know, though: in the 300 shot photo shoot you gals took of each other, facing the exits with the band in the background, looking at every picture between clicks and then reposing because someone “looked bad,” did you manage to find your new profile pic? I’ve been worried about it all night. I hope you chose to post the one where Becky looks kinda fat! Who invited that bitch anyway, all the pastel polo dudes were paying attention only to her.
“We all look hot in this one, ladies! Let’s totes focus on the music now.”
5. PDA. Public Displays of Affection, or Assholery, depending on how far it goes. I actually have a pretty sturdy stomach for this too (although that one couple was pushing a public indecency charge, particularly given that this was an all-ages show). But maybe quit brushing into me when you’re poking your weird girlfriend’s waist, especially because she smacked into me every time she jumped. Although I think it forged a bond between us, since when she went to grab your hand, she ended up grabbing and squeezing mine instead. Classic.
6. Crazy old dudes who knew every word to every song and were totally rocking out. Absolutely no complaints here. Were you a little overserved? Probably. But you were having a hell of a time without harming anyone around you, and whenever your fist-pumping hand-waving enthusiasm caught my eye, it made me really happy. Same goes for the under-five-fee-tall older lady who absolutely got down with her bad self to Shovels & Rope. I invited her to stand in front of me (I’m pushing 6 feet tall and try to be nice about it) and was handsomely rewarded by her backing ‘dat ass up with moves that 22 year old strippers would envy. It was hilarious and also phenomenal. I’m glad you like the band so much — and I’ve absolutely been guilty of doing the same, though with less sweet moves, for my favorite artists — so keep on throwing down, sister!
Just gotta convince this security dude to stop doing his job, at no gain to himself, so I can prove it, amiright?
7. The chick who tried to talk her way backstage was absolutely brutal to watch. Like, it was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t decide whether it was funny or painful, kind of the way The Office used to make me feel when it was in its prime. I don’t know if there’s a secret to getting backstage, but I can offer a strategy guaranteed not to work: approach the security guy with a haughty look and a condescending tone, be taken aback and suddenly adopt a saccharine sweet demeanor when you don’t immediately get what you want just by shaking your bosom in his face, then get really ticked off and sulk away when he continues to refuse you admittance through the door. This is perilously close to turning into a tangentially related rant about how the folks in the service industry are treated, so I’ll keep this part relatively short: the folks collecting your tickets, acting as security, serving your drinks, and otherwise helping the event to run smoothly are Actual People. Shocking, I know. If you go to enough shows and start to see the same faces and get to know them a little, you might find out that they’re not only Actual People, but often rather fun/interesting/nice ones! Yes, even the security guys that won’t let your random ass run amok backstage unaccompanied by anyone associated with the band or grab the titties of the poor girl who had the misfortune of standing next to you. Crazy, right? Quit being a dick, and also please tip your bartender extra because she is working her butt off dealing with drunks and cheapskates while you get to enjoy (or facebook post about) the show.
Alas, the challenge may be too great even for Ridiculously Photogenic Metalhead
I try to keep things almost entirely positive on this blog, and I remain convinced that most music fans are fantastic, but this rant has been building up for a while as I’ve noticed certain behaviors becoming increasingly prevalent — particularly in the Americana/roots music, blues and indie rock, and acoustic scenes, which is exactly where it’s the most distracting. It kills me that the hard rock/metal/punk scene is constantly denigrated by mainstream media; I can tell you that the culture of these shows is almost universally one of brotherhood and support, both for the artists performing and fellow audience members. Of course there are aberrations and individual exceptions. Of course! But some of the entitled, obnoxious behavior I saw on Friday night left me disgusted and it detracted from the experience. This is a damn shame because both bands were outstanding! Again, I’ll elaborate on that fact a bit more in my forthcoming weekend music wrap-up post, but I wanted to make it clear here that this absolutely was not a situation in which the artists were wildly hungover and/or bored and/or disconnected with the crowd and just trying to get through the gig to collect a paycheck, or otherwise behaving in a way that would arguably justify the audience responding by tuning out in turn.
Keep your own beat, you clowns. I’m done here.
It’s festival season, nerds! I’m taking ‘shrooms and bum-rushing the stage!
To close things out: I understand that people appreciate music in different ways, and every venue and music scene has a continuum of behavior that is deemed acceptable. Trying to start a pit at Dawes would’ve been absurd. Expecting families to minimize conversation during an outdoor festival where picnickers and children are welcome would be foolish (and would ruin a different type of communal connection that is specific to that kind of event). So, dance like a lunatic even if it means bumping into me a couple times, scream along to your favorite songs wildly off-key, heck even take a couple pictures with your camera phone if you want them for your own collection or you really need to make sure your social network knows that you’re doing something fun that evening. But for goodness sake, remember that you are there to hear the band, and that other people paid money to do the same, and adjust your behavior to the circumstances accordingly.
Now stop accusing me of being a misanthrope and go visit the merch booth.